Religious passions, guerrilla attacks, and politics marred Christmas Eve in Iraq, as the Shiite holy day of Ashura also approaches on Sunday. A wave of bombings targeting churches or Shiite mourning sessions struck throughout the country Thursday and Friday, killing 27 and wounding over 100.
The biggest attack, in the Shiite city of Hilla, killed a member of the provincial council allied politically with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, along with 14 others.
In East Baghdad, a bombing targeted a mourning session of Shiite Muslims, killing 5. There was also an inflammatory bombing in the holy city of Karbala, site of Husayn’s martyrdom, which killed 1 and wounded 12.
In Mosul, 5 churches have been bombed, and a Christian youth was shot down Thursday morning
Many Christian churches have canceled Chrismas mass because of security concerns, including the Chaldean archdiocese of Kirkuk.
Some Christians fear that religious passions are high among Shiite Muslims at this time, because the latter mourn the killing of their beloved Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in the month of Muharram, which recently began. Dec. 27 is Ashura, the primary mourning date.
But the attacks on Christians and Shiites are both likely emanating from Salafi Sunni extremists, who are fighting a rearguard battle against the Sunni Arab loss of power in Iraq at the hands of Christians and Shiites. (It is unfair to associate Iraqi Christians with the Americans, since theirs is among the older Christian churches in the Middle East and predates Islam in Iraq, but the Salafis are still playing symbolic politics by equating Christianity with the imperialist West. As a result, Iraq’s Christian population has fallen from 800,000 to 400,000 and is in danger of disappearing altogether, as Iraqi Christians flee to Syria).
Some Iraqi newspapers blamed the government for being unable to stop the attacks, though in fact security is pretty tight in Iraq at the moment. In past Muharrams, massive bombings have been carried out.
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